U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland stopped in Fort Madison Saturday as part of his eight-county tour this weekend.
FORT MADISON — U.S. Rep. John Delaney embraced the role of retail politician this weekend as he toured local diners and the homes of Iowans during his fifth trip to the state as a presidential candidate.
Delaney, a Democrat whose congressional district includes D.C. suburbs and rural counties in Maryland, met with a half-dozen people late Saturday afternoon in the Hy-Vee cafeteria here.
The early-to-announce candidate is the first in his party to mount a challenge to Republican President Donald Trump for the November 2020 election.
His first hurdle, however, will be the Iowa caucuses, still more than two years away.
A New Jersey native, Delaney, 54, told the small group about his humble upbringing as the son of an electrician and stay-at-home mom who was given a shot at a bright future through higher education and a nation that helped his ambitions become reality.
After earning a law degree from Georgetown University, Delaney said he went on to start two lucrative businesses that traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
"I think I'm the right person for the job. I think I've got the right vision for the country," said Delaney, in the midst of his third term in the House of Representatives. "But not a lot of people know who I am, which is why I've gotten in early, to give myself an opportunity to listen to people and introduce myself to people and give them a chance to understand who I am and what I'm all about."
When Delaney announced his candidacy in July, he also said he would not seek re-election in 2018.
Over the course of an hour, Delaney made his pitch and talked with the group about issues on their mind like health care, the national debt and how to bridge the seemingly growing divide between Republicans and Democrats.
On health care, Delaney said he was not in favor of a single-payer system like some Democrats support, but rather a system in which all Americans are covered either by Medicare or Medicaid but also have the option to pay for private, supplemental coverage in order to keep costs competitive and quality high.
"That's the right way to get universal coverage but maintain the health care system we have now," he said. "The problem with the single-payer system is, yeah it gets everyone coverage, but it basically is scrapping the current health care system. And we can't afford to do that, and it's not clear that that would produce better outcomes."
The overarching theme of Delaney's message Saturday, and in other appearances he's made so far in the campaign, was the role government can play in building up "forgotten" parts of America through investment in education, infrastructure and job training.
"First, and most fundamentally," he said, "we have to do things that take these huge parts of our country that have been left behind and create policies so that not only the government, but the private sector, invest in these communities and start evening out the economic growth of the country."
One of Delaney's moves toward that vision would be to make preschool and community college free for all Americans.
Technology, the congressman said, "will in fact change the jobs of the future and unless we prepare our country for it, our citizens are going to have a really hard time."
Jim Posz of Fort Madison said he liked Delaney's forward-thinking platform and found it "refreshing" that a candidate was brainstorming about innovative ways to face the future.
"The world is not going to go back to the way it was," Posz said. "We need to be looking down the road and working to achieve things that will help the next generation."
Also Saturday, Delaney visited the homes of voters in Wapello and Keosauqua.